EU member states struggling with tight deadline for ‘CAP strategic plans’

Two member states, including the Agriculture Commissioner's home country of Poland as well as Slovakia, warned that they may miss the deadline entirely. [SHUTTERSTOCK]

A third of EU member states have expressed concerns over meeting an end-of-year deadline for submitting their national strategic plans under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), including the agriculture Commissioner’s home country Poland, according to sources.

At a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday and Tuesday (11-12 October), EU farm ministers looked at the current state of play when it comes to CAP strategic plans.

Through these plans, EU countries will set out how they intend to meet the nine EU-wide objectives while responding to the needs of their farmers and rural communities.

Draft plans are to be submitted to the European Commission for approval by the end of the year. However, not all EU countries are sure to meet the deadline.

“Member states are at slightly different stages,” an EU source told EURACTIV, saying that while a number of governments intend to submit by the deadline, most expressed concerns about the tight time frame.

CAP Tracker – Next steps for the national strategic plans

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EURACTIV was informed that two member states, including Poland, the home country of agriculture Commissioner’s Janusz Wojciechowski, along with Slovakia, warned that they may miss the deadline entirely.

Seven other member states that have expressed difficulties in meeting the deadline include Ireland, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia, and Austria.

Of those, some suggested that the deadline should be pushed back, while the others inquired whether parts of the plan could be submitted later than 1 January, or updated at a later date.

One EU source expressed confidence that most member states would meet the deadline, while another said “all countries are behind schedule.”

An official who attended the ministerial talks told EURACTIV that the Commission will not grant an extension beyond 1 January 2022, although Brussels was open to “considering some flexibility in sending documentation later”.

In addition to the tight schedule, member states highlighted a number of other sticking points holding up the process.

These include a lack of legal certainty due to the late adoption of secondary legislation and the need to submit targets for the EU’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy, and biodiversity strategy. As it stands, these strategies are not legally binding on member states.

Countries with a decentralised administration in which regions share competence with the executive in agriculture – including France, Spain, Italy and Germany – also flagged specific technical concerns in drawing up the draft plan.

“It seems that submitting the strategic plans is more complicated for countries with regional plans,” the source told EURACTIV.

This is due to the fact that national administrations would normally delegate a certain amount of the more detailed planning to the regions, but the design of the national strategic plan does not allow for this.

The four countries concerned have already written a letter to the Commission about this issue, the source added.

Commissioner: Rejecting CAP plans on basis of Green Deal alignment 'unimaginable'

The EU’s Agriculture Commissioner has said he does not foresee a situation where a member state’s Common Agricultural Policy national plan would be rejected for failing to align with the Green Deal, banking instead on the power of persuasion.

Asked by EURACTIV about potential roadblocks and delays, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said: “The majority of member states declare that they are ready to present the draft of the strategic plans by the end of this year”.

While the Commissioner declined to name the countries that are lagging behind, he conceded that some member states had reservations about the date.

However, Wojciechowski stressed that the Commission’s approach is “flexible”.

“It will not be the procedure that 31 of December, everything could be closed and nothing can be changed. We are flexible and it is possible during the dialogue with member states to add something new to the proposal, to change something,” he explained.

The Commissioner did not directly address concerns raised by the decentralised countries but suggested that the Commission was working on a number of tools to assist member states in preparing their plans.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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